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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Links - 18th April 2018 (2)

Germany, Austria: Imams Warn Muslims Not to Integrate - "In the debate on migrants in Germany and Austria, no other term is used more often than "integration." But the institution that is most important for many Muslim migrants does not generally contribute much to this effort — and often actively fights it: the mosque. That is the finding of an official Austrian study as well as private research conducted by a German journalist. In late September, the Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF), a department of the foreign ministry published a study, "The role of the mosque in the integration process". For the purposes of the study, employees of the ÖIF visited 16 mosques in Vienna, attended several Friday sermons and spoke with the individual imams — that is, if the imams were willing to have a conversation, which was often not the case. The result of this, according to the ÖIF, is that only two of the mosque associations foster the integration of their members... the mosque associations are "closed spaces in terms of ethnicity and language." That difference fosters "social integration into an internal ethnic environment, and thus ethnic segmentation." In eight of the 16 mosques surveyed, this trend is further reinforced by "widespread and openly-propagated nationalism"... six of the 16 mosque associations examined (37.5%) pursue "a policy that actively impedes integration into society and to some extent exhibits fundamentalist tendencies." Half of the 16 mosques examined "preach a dichotomous worldview, the pivotal tenet of which is the division of the world into Muslims on one side, and everyone else on the other." Six of the mosques were found to practice "explicit denigration of Western society... scholars of Islamic studies and Islam experts "are very obliging in offering to be interviewed on current political issues." That openness does not exist, however, when it concerns sermons in German mosques... The danger of this approach is demonstrated by the murder of Farima S., an Afghan woman who was murdered in the Bavarian town of Prien. Eight years ago, she renounced Islam, adopted Christianity and, two years after that, fled to Germany. On April 29, she was murdered by an Afghan Muslim in broad daylight. While a number of Muslims living in the town attended the funeral, the mosque associations pretended that the murder did not concern them. Karl-Friedrich Wackerbarth, the pastor of the Evangelical parish of Prien, where Farima S. was a member, asked the associations to condemn the crime. In October, half a year after the murder, he responded to an inquiry from Gatestone Institute: "Unfortunately, to this day," he said, "there has been no reaction." Wackerbarth suspects that the Islamic associations do not want to make a pronouncement against fatwas by Cairo's Al-Azhar University, and others, according to which "apostates" [those who renounce Islam] are to be killed."

Lena Dunham tweets women don't lie about rape before defending Miller - "The Girls star has attracted major backlash after issuing a statement in defence of producer and writer Murray Miller, who has been accused of rape by Aurora Perrineau... Many people have criticised Dunham for seemingly choosing to ignore a woman’s allegations because they’re aimed at a friend, rather than a stranger – and one of the actress’s tweets has resurfaced, providing a very different opinion from Lena. On August 4, she tweeted: ‘Things women do lie about: what they ate for lunch. Things women don’t lie about: rape’... On Lena’s Twitter feed, she has supported women who have spoken out on alleged sexual assault and harassment including Olivia Munn, Rosanna Arquette, Ashley Judd and Asia Argento. Argento, who has alleged she was raped by Harvey Weinstein, tweeted a link to Lena’s Miller statement and wrote: ‘You wrote me an email of support a few weeks ago and now you defend a rapist? WTF @lenadunham?’"

Lena Dunham no longer believes rape victims because her show's producer has been accused of rape - "Lena has claimed on several occasions that the percentage of women who lie about rape is close to 3%, but has failed to provide any evidence to back it up"

Writer Leaves Lenny Letter Citing Dunham’s ‘Known Racism’ - "a writer for Dunham’s Lenny Letter is publicly walking away from the online publication, citing what she calls the writer-actress-producer-activist’s “well-known racism.” Author Zinzi Clemmons says that she has known Dunham since their college years, and that the two share overlapping social circles. During that time, Clemmons says she “avoided those people like the plague because of their racism,” adding, “I’d call their strain ‘hipster-racism,’ which typically uses sarcasm as a cover.”"
The lady doth protest too much, methinks

Lena Dunham accused a woman of lying about rape. It fits her history. - "this controversy is not an isolated incident. Since 2012, when Girls first catapulted Dunham into her current cultural status as a walking think piece topic, she has been plagued by accusations of fake feminism, white feminism, and outright racism. For many, her statement on Perrineau is a last straw of sorts, and Clemmons’s allegations about her past are all too believable... By 2016, patience with Dunham’s I-am-always-learning-about-racism syndrome was running low. So when she claimed that football player Odell Beckham Jr. ignored her at the Met Ball because “I was not the shape of a woman by his standards” — apparently projecting a sexualized and misogynistic attitude onto a black man when all he did was sit quietly and mind his own business — few were willing to pull their punches in response... she was beginning to face new criticism: not just over the question of whether she was racist, but whether she was a child molester."

Why Have Female Superhero Movies Failed (So Far)? - "Sometimes these films failed because the directors or writers tried too hard to pull the Strong Independent Woman angle, but other times gender was irrelevant and the film was just plain bad... In a recent Q&A, Patty Jenkins said that the “real challenge” of making a Wonder Woman movie was challenging the belief that women’s stories are only relatable for women, while men’s stories are universal. The director explained that when she first saw Richard Donner’s Superman, she had a great deal of empathy for young Clark Kent. “I was Superman,” Jenkins recalled. “I was that little boy. I took that ride and that journey.” So, when she finally got the chance to make a Wonder Woman movie, her goal was to create a character that girls and boys alike could relate to. “It ends up being funny because this sexism comes to the fore, because she’s walking into 1918 and she’s completely oblivious… And so there ends up being accidental comments about it, but I also went into it not making a movie about a woman at all. I’m making a movie about Wonder Woman, who I love, who to me is one of the great superheroes. And so I just treat her like a universal character. That’s what I think is the next step, is when we can start doing that more and more and the studios have confidence to do that.”"
In other words, and especially given the failure of Ghostbusters, feminism makes for bad movies

How Living in Amsterdam Is Killing the Woman in Me - "It is indeed liberating to wear whatever you like when you go out and not having to worry about it. Are you wearing a nice dress and heels for a night out? That’s fine, no man will harass you. Are you wearing your pijama when going to the Albert Heijn downstairs to buy croissants and orange juice on a Saturday morning? That’s also fine, people in the shop will mind their own business. Whatever you wear – and whenever you wear it – in Amsterdam you will be just fine. Looks are not the most important thing here, and this goes for both men and women. What matters is your contribution... living in Amsterdam is killing the woman in me. Not only am I losing my ability to dress and act elegantly, I also feel like I am becoming, well, invisible. I am not looking for a partner, I have one. So flirting with men doesn’t interest me. What I would like though is a clue that I am being noticed. I see you and you see me. That’s all. But it will not happen in Amsterdam. There are other places in the world for that.
So either you complain about being valued for your looks, or you complain about not being valued for your looks. You can't win

Do Employers in F&B Hire Hot Girls For You, or For Themselves? - "when she applied to work at Everything With Fries, she was asked for her cup size. Places like Awfully Chocolate, according to a former intern at Rice, allegedly gives their servers T-shirts that are a size smaller than the one they request for. Norman Then, the 29-year old owner of Stickies Bar, which is known for cheap beer and servers who are young, attractive “influencer types”, argues that this is just business and marketing... “Guys like to look at girls and talk about girls, girls also like to look at and talk about other girls. And also with girls the service is better. They’re more attentive, and they have a gentler touch, which people like”... “Places like Frolick will say, we look for girls with a nice smile. But you look at who they hire, and it’s quite clear how we understand things like ‘having a nice smile’. Usually it just means we want pretty girls or handsome guys”... "We hire people across different ages and races, but we look for people who are young, cool and hip, with like a fun personality, people that our customers might look at and say, eh I want to be like that"... “I didn’t know why he was telling me all this, but it made me feel special. Fuck, so embarrassing to say this now. But I was so naive. It was like, I liked that I seemed to make him happier than this other woman.” One evening, after post-work drinks, he told her that he was falling for her. “He even said, “If you want me to leave my girlfriend, just tell me. I’ll do it.” I believed him. That night, we went back to his place. And yes, whatever you think happen happened.”"
Having been to Everything With Fries many times, I have to say I doubt they had a cup size hiring policy (unless it was the opposite of what one would presume)

White inventor of ‘white fragility’ tells University of Texas: Whites must stop becoming teachers - "The white professor who quit her full-time position to tour the country, leading seminars on “white fragility,” asked for whites in the room to come forward. About 15 people walked to the stage and each one read a quote from the projection screen that addressed their “internalized superiority,” “racial privilege” and other deficiencies as whites. When they finished reading, the professor told the audience to “not clap” for the white people as they returned to their seats. She announced there would be no question-and-answer session. Then Robin DiAngelo, a part-time lecturer at the University of Washington who coined the term “white fragility” and wrote a forthcoming book on it, summarily dismissed the three-hour exercise in getting whites to feel bad about themselves... DiAngelo told participants that even as someone who leads seminars on the subject, it’s hard for her to talk about white fragility because it makes all whites uncomfortable and “very irrational”... She declined to answer a question about why men are the overwhelming majority of the prison population if they are a dominant group. The Fix had asked to play “devil’s advocate,” to which DiAngelo responded that such phrasing is a “power move” coming from a male."
I wonder why, if you keep condemning people of a certain race, putting them down, claiming you are infallible and anything they say is wrong, they would get uncomfortable, try to defend themselves and exercise critical thinking and critically examine your claims, instead of self-flagellating and accepting everything you say

Singapore’s sex trade: licensed brothels, ‘sugar babies’, and laws you can run rings around - "The licensing of brothels is controversial because they operate in so-called designated red-light areas, where the law against pimping is not enforced, critics say. (These areas include the Geylang district, Keong Saik Road, Flanders Square and Desker Road.) They argue that the brothels operate counter to the Women’s Charter, an act passed in Singapore in 1961 that prohibits knowingly living “wholly or in part on the earnings of the prostitution of another person”, and carries a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine not exceeding S$10,000. “It is not just a grey area. It flies in the face of the rule of law,” Ho says... “It is clearly not easy work, but they are caught in a very difficult place,” says Nicholas Harrigan, a sociologist from the Singapore Management University. “I would think the ethical thing to do is to look at how we can make their work safer and less precarious.” They should be able to ply their trade safely, without harassment, and with dignity, Harrigan says. After all, says Jaafar: “I am not just a prostitute. I’m actually a professional entertainer for the men in Singapore.”"
Maybe brothel owners feel oppressed that they are technically criminals, just like 377A technically criminalises gay men

Johor's Malays tilt towards conservative Islam: Survey - "Most Johorean Malays prefer Muslims in key leadership positions. Three in four are supportive of strict Islamic criminal laws called hudud that have punishments, such as stoning for adultery and amputations for theft, being implemented in the state. And slightly over half, or 57 per cent, want those laws applied to all Malaysians regardless of religion. ISEAS fellow Norshahril Saat said such conservatism was previously associated only with Malays living in the rural Malay belt states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah... "After I die and am lying in my grave, which identity will secure me heaven? Do I tell God I am Muslim or a Johorean and Malaysian?""
Looks like the Sultan is not in tune with his people

David Cronenberg Says Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrecking Film Criticism - "A movie critic's job is to offer informed analysis of a film, based on an understanding of the medium's history as a popular art form. Usually this involves judging whether the movie succeeds in a number of ways, from storytelling and acting to sheer aesthetic beauty. A good critic usually has a nuanced enough view of a movie that it might be hard to reduce the entire thing to "thumbs up" or "thumbs down.""

Raqqa's dirty secret - "The deal to let IS fighters escape from Raqqa – de facto capital of their self-declared caliphate – had been arranged by local officials. It came after four months of fighting that left the city obliterated and almost devoid of people. It would spare lives and bring fighting to an end. The lives of the Arab, Kurdish and other fighters opposing IS would be spared. But it also enabled many hundreds of IS fighters to escape from the city. At the time, neither the US and British-led coalition, nor the SDF, which it backs, wanted to admit their part... "we saw IS fighters with their weapons and suicide belts on. They booby-trapped our trucks. If something were to go wrong in the deal, they would bomb the entire convoy. Even their children and women had suicide belts on"... Despite the abuse they suffered, the lorry drivers agreed - when it came to money, IS settled its bills... Raqqa was effectively IS’s capital but it was also a cage - fighters were trapped there. The deal to save Raqqa may have been worth it. But it has also meant battle-hardened militants have spread across Syria and further afield – and many of them aren’t done fighting yet"

Indonesia's Orang Rimba: Forced to renounce their faith - ""For now we are focusing on the children. It's easier to convert them - their mind isn't filled with other things. With the older ones it's harder," he says... "So that our children can have the same opportunities as the outsiders, the people of the light, we had no other choice. We had to all convert to Islam." ... The surrounding majority Muslim population calls the Orang Rimba "Kubu". "It means that they are very dirty, they are garbage, you can't even look because it is so disgusting," explains anthropologist Butet Manurung, who has lived with the Orang Rimba for many years. "It also means primitive, stupid, bad smelling - basically pre-human. People say their evolution is not complete."... "After a while, we wanted to send our children to school, but the teacher wanted to see their birth certificates, and for that you have to have a state religion that the government recognises. "So we had a tribal meeting, and discussed what religion we would choose, and decided to choose Islam," says Yusuf. Indonesia - the world's largest Muslim country - officially recognises six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Indigenous rights bodies are fighting to get recognition for the hundreds of other faiths practised across Indonesia. The country's constitutional court recently ruled in their favour, finding that it was against the constitution to force people to state a religion... The fact that they hunt and eat wild pigs also creates social tensions, he added. "This is a Muslim community. If they see the pig's blood and the leftover bits, they are disturbed," the officer explained. What is taboo, or haram, for the Orang Rimba directly contrasts with what Muslims eat, explains Mr Manurung. "Orang Rimba will not eat domesticated animals such as chickens, cows or sheep. They think it's a form of betrayal. You feed the animal, and when it gets fat you eat it. The fair thing to do is to fight. Whoever wins can eat the loser." This clash of cultures began in the 1980s, when then-President Suharto gave land and incentives to migrants from overcrowded Java to move and open up the jungles of Sumatra"

Your gut bacteria could determine how you respond to cutting-edge cancer drugs

Swedish woman Raped by Syrian migrant commits Suicide after Prosecutor drops her Case - "Angelica is not the only one whose rape case fell through. Swedish police, he says, is getting worse and worse at researching sexual crimes and 13 rape cases are closed without prosecution each day... Lamotte recorded his telephone call with police, inquiring after the rape of a 12-year-old girl. In it, the police admits that it “can no longer cope with the scale of sexual violence”."

BHU doctor creates app to block porn websites, play bhajans instead - "A doctor in Varanasi’s Banaras Hindu University and his programmer associate have created an application that will block access to pornographic websites and begin playing Hindu devotional songs when a user makes an attempt"

Defending Xi Jinping

On China's Weibo banning LGBTQ content and reversing this after an outcry

John Lombard: This is a smaller part of a much bigger story. For those who don't know me, I've been living in China for a quarter of a century now. During most of that time -- from 1993 to 2013 -- China was heading in a positive direction, with steady improvement in freedoms. Certainly not as good as in democratic nations, but still moving in the right direction.

That has all changed under Xi Jinping. He recently grabbed headlines when he was successful in getting the People's Congress to revoke previous term limits that prevented a President from serving more than two terms...with tons of speculation that he's setting himself up to maintain power for a much longer period. Under Xi, we've seen massive crackdowns on the internet, harassing or imprisoning those who say anything the government doesn't like, etc. Worse, there have been cases of Hong Kong citizens who were vocally critical of the Chinese gov't actually being kidnapped and spirited into China, where they are then detained by Chinese authorities.

This latest anti-LGBTQ campaign is quite pervasive. Multiple TV shows have been canceled entirely...either because they contain objectionable content (ie. showing LGBTQ behavior), or just because a particular host/actor is known to be LGBTQ.

Most of my time in China, I've been quite the cheerleader, supporting and praising the reforms and changes that were taking place. But now, for the first time, I'm feeling real concern over the direction China is taking. It is actively moving backwards, rescinding many of the reforms that have been accomplished in the past. Even Xi's greatest 'accomplishment', of cracking down on corruption, seems to have been intended more as a tool to take down his opponents.

This is a small victory, in a sea of many more losses. Nor do I expect it to last for too long...the gov't may well simply turn around and force Weibo to enforce restrictions on LGBTQ content, regardless of what users say.

Mike Pete: Who gets to decide that these changes were "progress" of any sort? Because the West somehow believes it to be true? And in what state is the West today?

If anything one could argue that tightening of the grip on media - especially in the age of the internet - is a response to observations of quite catastrophic consequences their unbridled spread has caused in the West.

The Chinese are very observant and the last thing they will allow is transplanting weaknesses from other countries.

Me: It's telling that even many Chinese are dismayed by the direction the country has taken. But of course they can all be dismissed as bananas

Mike Pete: "Many" - how many exactly? Last I read general support for authorities stood at about 80%. Of course 20% out of a billion+ society is going to be a lot but that doesn't mean anything.

At any given time large portion of ANY society is going to complain about how their countries are managed. Besides that, Chinese are complaining about many things all the time. Not necessarily the general direction of the country though.

Ca. half of the societies in the West (more less, depending on the country) either don't participate in elections or mistrust their politicians. Is that somehow superior to what Chinese practice?

That's the point of centralized, authoritarian rule - to overrule the whiners and steer the ship in the right direction.

What exactly does the West have to show for its ways? Democracy and unbridled free speech are fairly new inventions there, regardless of historical background.

Nobody has ever elevated more people out of poverty in shortest period of time than the Chinese have. Nobody has completed more infrastructural feats in shorter period of time than the Chinese have. Nobody has moved more people from impoverished countryside into bustling cities faster than the Chinese have. And they are still plowing ahead.

You want to tell me that what you can babble about on Weibo is somehow more important than that?

The only reason China has managed to elevate itself so quickly and plays today such a strong role in global geopolitics is the fact that is wealth is controlled in an organized, technocratic, centralized way that only USA can match - and only to a limited degree. Europe is nowhere near.

About 30% of Singaporeans have been "dismayed" by the direction their country has taken since the 80s. I think they can be dismissed as bananas, so I don't see why complaining Chinese in PRC shouldn't be.

Regardless of how amazingly the country performs, a lot of people will never shut up.

John Lombard: Mike Pete -- Not sure exactly what the "point" of your question is: "Who gets to decide that these changes were "progress" of any sort?"

I came to China in 1993. At that time, most people had their entire lives controlled by the government. What they studied in school, what job they would have, where they would live...even who they could marry. They lived in constant fear that saying something negative about the government could cause them to lose their job, or even be put in prison. Virtually no Chinese were allowed to leave China. And they knew almost nothing about the outside world beyond what the government told them.

Today, the vast majority of Chinese have complete freedom to choose what they will study, where they will work, who they will marry, etc. They have much greater ability to criticize and question the government (albeit within specific boundaries). The only limiting factor in leaving China and traveling to other countries is usually how much money they have (and millions travel every year). And even with the controls on the internet, they are far, FAR more aware of the outside world, and what is going on.

I consider that to be progress. Every Chinese person I know considers that to be progress. In fact, every person I know who is NOT suffering from gross ignorance or denial, considers that to be progress.

So...is it your argument that this is NOT progress? Or that it is somehow wrong to call it progress?

By that same token -- recent government actions to PUNISH people who are criticizing the government...or kidnapping Hong Kong citizens and spiriting them into China...or many of the other ways that the current Chinese gov't is cracking down...

I consider that to be moving backwards. Almost every Chinese person I know considers that to be moving backwards. Is it your argument that it is NOT?

Me: Given how much resources they need to pour into suppressing dissent...

Mike Pete: John - you're comparing things belonging to different categories and it all is jumbled under a post about restrictions of a certain topic on Weibo (which was even lifted in the end). These are not things of the same caliber even if Westerners are inclined to equate them.

Your perspective is that of an individual - which is, again, a very Western thing. Perspective of Chinese authorities is that of a 1.5 billion country - a continent in itself, an entire civilization. The most populous state in the world, barely lifting itself from 150 years of humiliation, internal strife, civil wars and rebellions, which have consumed way over 100 million lives.

So you will excuse me if I say that whether some overzealous Hong Konger gets silenced is quite meaningless in comparison.

Whether certain individuals in that massive pool of people are treated in one way or another is irrelevant as long as the general direction benefits the masses.

What you see as going backwards can be the only way forward for the entire country, protecting future stability in a world where new, modern internal forces are already undermining many others.

Deng Xiaoping said, quoted by LKY, about the Tinananmen protests: "'If I have to shoot 200,000 students to save China from another 100 years of disorder, so be it."

So whether someone is kidnapped or arrested for potentially subversive criticism of authorities does not bother me. I don't see it as an issue because individuals do not come before the society.

Chinese are not blind, they see what individual liberties produce in the West and are extremely cautious, trying to prevent anything that would undermine political and economic integrity of the Middle Kingdom.

And that's a good thing. In fact, that is the best thing (for China, of course).

Since when is democracy better than authoritarian rule? Progress of mankind happened predominantly under strong, centralized, often absolute power. That's how we've developed for thousands of years.

Proper democracy - i.e. a system that allows all citizens to vote - is not even a century old. And the reality of it combined with free speech - where everybody can actually have a voice without substantial barriers - has only emerged in the past 20 years, with the internet.

Where does the assertion of superiority of giving power to the people (vast majority of whom are complete morons) come from exactly?

Me: Is your real name Michael Petraeus?

John Lombard: Mike Pete -- I'm curious -- do you actually LIVE in China? I do. Been here 25 years. So my perspective isn't that of an outsider. It is that of someone who experiences these things on a daily basis.

Further, the vast majority of Chinese people agree with my perspective...so again, this isn't just a Westerner's perspective. This is a perspective shared by a significant number of Chinese people.

Third, when you are JUSTIFYING a government that IGNORES the rule of law (kidnapping people against their will is against both Chinese law and Hong Kong law, and completely violates the principles of 'One Country, Two Systems' that the Chinese gov't agreed to), you are obviously just a troll...an apologist who will mindlessly justify ANYTHING that the Chinese gov't does.

And fourth, I have NO DOUBT that Xi Jinping believes he is doing "what is good for China". Just as Mao Zedong thought he was doing "what was good for China" when countless millions of people died because of the "Great Leap Forward", or the terrible abuses of the Cultural Revolution. But BELIEVING that you are doing something good, doesn't MAKE it good.

So again -- do YOU actually LIVE in China? Do you have to live with and deal with these issues on a daily basis, as I do, and as 1.5 billion Chinese do? Or are you singing the praises of the Chinese gov't, while living somewhere else that you don't have to actually EXPERIENCE the results of that government's decisions?

Please note -- I am not some mindless critic of the Chinese gov't. I've actually been quite a strong advocate of the Chinese gov't for most of the time I've been in China. It is only under Xi's leadership that I've come to have real concerns.

Paul Gainer: John Lombard I lived there for a decade and can vouch for your story

Mike Pete: So you know the vast majority of Chinese people? Amazing, you must have been really busy talking to hundreds of thousands quite literally every single day for 25 years.

How big is your social circle really? 150 people? 500 people? 1000 people? On what basis do you extrapolate your experiences onto the billion+ inhabiting the same country?

No I don't live in PRC but I have lived in Asia for several years now (getting close to 10), in a few different countries with either Chinese influence or dominance. So I understand how the culture of the civilization actually shapes local politics. I now live in Singapore, which is actually one of the sources of inspiration for the current Chinese government. And yes, local authorities in Singapore have also skirted the law or outright enacted legislation that permitted them to fight against, jail or expel potentially subversive individuals and reduced political opposition to a manageable minority. If they haven't done that this little island wouldn't be the amazing city-state it is now, clearly one of the best if not the best place to live in the world.

I have never said your perspective is that of an outsider but your perspective is that of an individual - which inhibits you from seeing the big picture. It appears to me, then, that despite a quarter of a century in China you have really failed to absorb the way its societal management is layered from down to the top and the other way back, and the guiding principles that have been in place in this society for at least 2500 years, if not more, since even Confucius said that he merely described what he observed, not created anything new.

Laws cannot and will not stay in the way of fundamental, strategic Chinese interests as well as the country's basic stability and territorial integrity. That's why I brought up the quote from Deng, who was committed to slaughtering any opposition if only to save China from another century of internal turmoil.

This point I made about that century you, clearly, have also ignored.

Your remarks about complaining individuals are completely irrelevant because you can go to ANY country in the world and ask the locals about their government and you will hear a cascade of complaints as well.

Most people in the West are disillusioned with their politicians, about half in most countries doesn't even participate in elections. Even in the fabled "land of the free" priding itself on its superpower status and civil liberties enshrined in its constitution saw 45% of the eligible voters stay at home for the presidential elections, with a large part of those who voted still rather unconvinced by the choices they have.

In fact 71% of Americans say they have little to no confidence in Congress. Wow, imagine that...

Your quip about Mao is hardly relevant here. Yes, he was a terrible economic manager and a bent ideologue who caused immense damage and millions of deaths but he was also the man who reunited and pacified the country torn by a century of wars and rebellions. In a way he was the first representative of the new order and the last of the old one.

Individual citizens in any society are not equipped to judge the gravity of geopolitical maneuvers and the impact they have on their lives. But it's these moves that decide the future of the country (so, again, whether certain individuals end in jail or get kidnapped is a small price to pay).

Clearly, you have exhibited your ignorance of the matter here as well. It's also why you are unable to understand the importance of the moves Xi Jinping makes - much like you ignored the strategically critical legacy of Mao, who was the first Chinese leader in 100+ years successfully managing external threats along Chinese borders.

He subjugated Tibet and Xinjiang, pushed back Indian ambitions along the Himalayas, managed Soviet Union and Stalin's machinations aimed at weakening Beijing, and, finally, kept Americans at bay, successfully reinforcing the regime in Pyongyang during and after Korean War, while defying potential nuclear threats in a time China was not yet equipped with atomic weapons itself.

The problem with most people is that they are incapable of any foresight. Plus, they have a tendency to take their good fortunes for granted. This is a deadly combination which brought even the most powerful empires down in the past.

Situation in the 90s cannot be compared to the reality of today. What could have been seen as progress then, has evolved into a significant threat today. And it is the role of the leadership to keep this threat under control, regardless of whether the public understands or agrees with its decisions.

In short, the ruling class has to save people from themselves.

So while you whine about the consequences of what the government does (how does that impact you directly anyway? how has your life deteriorated due to that? any examples?), you're quite blind to what would likely happen in the future, had it not acted in advance.
Coincidentally it's the reason why the only way for the West is down so, as you're living in China, I would be rather more grateful for the preemptive nature of the moves Chinese authorities make as it does protect your future rather more effectively than what anybody in the "developed" world does these days..

John Lombard: Okay, so let me get this straight.

A guy who DOESN'T live in China, and has only 10 years of experience in Asia as a whole, is nevertheless more of an expert on "what is happening in China" and "what Chinese people think" than a guy who's lived in China for a quarter of a century.

A guy who has NEVER EXPERIENCED most of the issues being discussed, is nevertheless more of an authority on it than a guy who has PERSONALLY lived through and experienced those events first-hand.

A guy who has NO personal investment in China at all, somehow knows more about it than a guy who has worked hand-in-hand with the government (consultant to the Beijing gov't for the 2008 Olympic Games), and started a non-profit organization to help a Chinese ethnic minority group (mosuo.org.cn).

It's AMAZING to me just how many people, whose entire "knowledge" of China is basically what they've read in newspapers or online articles, nevertheless consider themselves to be "experts" on "what China should do".

You're a troll...and a terribly ignorant one, at that. This will be my last response to you. You can write whatever other nonsense you want, I will leave it to others who are reading this to judge for themselves who actually makes the better arguments, and has more actual knowledge of the issues being discussed.

Good bye, Mike

Mike Pete: The irony is that I have a lot more reasons to worry about Xi's policies. He does what he is supposed to do - in the best interest of China - the real problem is that nobody else seems to be doing what they should to balance that in response.

John Lombard: Okay...I DO have to respond to this. Mike Pete is now claiming that HE HAS MORE REASON TO BE WORRIED ABOUT XI'S POLICIES than the actual people living in China do! This man's world is so egocentric that not only does he think he's an authority on China, without ever having lived here at all, but that he's threatened by Xi's policies more than the Chinese people are!

"The Chinese people shouldn't be worried about Xi. It is GOOD that he is kidnapping people, and cracking down on freedom of speech! But I should be worried about him, despite the fact I don't even live there!"

Ken Alexander: Xi Jinping personifies "absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Mike Pete: False. It would be true if he did it for personal reasons - but he isn't. It's not about him but about the future of China. If anything, Xi Jinping shows that concentration of power can bring more efficiency - even on a global scale.

Me: Err where is the efficiency?

Mike Pete: Are you seriously asking me this question Gabriel?

You never cease to amaze me. A lot of the time you sound like quite a reasonable, even smart guy, but then you pop something so astonishingly facile and obtuse that my jaw drops. Which is also why I unfriended you because I simply had enough of this ignorance.

李恩嘉: Xi Jinping is a religion. I was just in China. He’s worshipped like a god on all large character propo posters and every day you get a text message to study Xi’s quotes.

Me: You were never on my friends list

Anyway good to see that even questioning the gospel of xi gets you so worked up. It's a clear sign to others that you're a true zealot

Links - 18th April 2018 (1)

Wednesday polling day is 'troublesome': Mahathir - "Dr Mahathir said during his tenure as prime minister, polling days fixed on weekdays usually coincided with holidays... He said the recent redelineation exercise also posed problems for the Opposition and he expects more “funny things” in store."

Let’s talk about Donald Trump vs. the ‘deep state’ - The Washington Post - "it is worth pointing out a very disturbing dynamic emerging within the executive branch. The national security bureaucracy is clearly stacking the deck in an attempt to constrain the president’s choices, and the president is pushing back in a manner that is almost as reckless."

Two White Men Under Fire For Opening Ramen Restaurant With Extremely Racist Name - "Two South African men are finding themselves in an uncomfortable spotlight now that the name of their new restaurant has been made public. The men, who are both white, are opening an Asian eatery in the city of Melville, a suburb of Johannesburg. The pair have opted to name the establishment "Misohawni.""
If you're offended by gay marriage, don't get a gay marriage. If you're offended by a restaurant's name, flame the restaurant until they change it

Amagasaki rail crash - Wikipedia - "Investigators speculate that Takami may have been attempting to make up this lost time by increasing the train's speed beyond customary limits. Many reports from surviving passengers indicate that the train was travelling faster than normal. Plus, the driver might have been stressed because he would be punished both for having passed by a red light and for having overshot the platform at Itami Station. Ten months before the crash, Takami had been reprimanded for overshooting a station platform by 100 meters. In the minutes leading up to the derailment, he might have been thinking of the punishment he would face, and not totally focused on driving... cumulative changes over the previous three years had reduced the leeway in the train's schedule from 71 to 28 seconds over the 15 minutes between Takarazuka and Amagasaki stations. Drivers face financial penalties for lateness as well as being forced into harsh and humiliating retraining programs known as nikkin kyōiku (日勤教育, "dayshift education"), which include weeding and grass-cutting duties during the day. The final report officially concluded that the retraining system was one probable cause of incident. This program consisted of violent verbal abuse, forcing the employees to repent by writing extensive reports. Also, during these times, drivers were forced to perform minor tasks, particularly involving cleaning, instead of their normal jobs. Many saw the process of nikkin kyoiku as a punishment and psychological torture, and not as driver retraining. The driver had also received a non-essential phone call from the general control station at the time he was rounding the bend"

Fix your company culture before it becomes a full-blown crisis - "SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek, an army general who took the helm in 2012 after the company experienced massive disruptions the year before, attributes the problems to “deep-seated cultural issues.” But you don’t need half a decade to fix a company’s culture, if you identify problems early enough. Consider Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella, who engineered a successful change in the software giant’s culture within three years. Microsoft has about 10 times the number of employees of SMRT."

Crime Wave Engulfs Sweden as Fraud, Sexual Offenses Reach Record - "A survey by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention showed that 15.6 percent of people suffered one or more offences against the person (defined in the survey as assault, threats, sexual offences, robbery, fraud or harassment) last year. That’s up from 13.3 percent in 2015 and the highest number recorded since the annual Swedish Crime Survey started in 2006... Of the six types of offences against the person, five of six rose to their highest level on record last year. The number of assault cases reached its second-highest level."

Left-wing men are the 'actual worst' sexists, says Labour MP Jess Phillips - "Jess Phillips, the Labour MP, has claimed left-wing men are the “actual worst” sexists... When asked if the “out and out sexists of the right” were worse than the “well-meaning” of the left she claimed: “They [the left-wing men] are the worst, the actual worst."

Labor MPs to ignore huge 'no' votes in their multicultural electorates - "Labor MPs across western Sydney – and in two Melbourne seats – will defy the will of their electorates and vote "yes" to legalise same-sex marriage in Parliament. More than any other area in Australia, the people of western Sydney voted "no". Here, where up to three quarters of the population in the electorates of Blaxland and Watson voted against same sex marriage, the cultural clash of marriage equality and the conservative values of immigrant cultures told the story of the polls"
Democracy means ignoring the unwashed masses

Same Sex Marriage — The White Pride result no-one dares talk about - "Some may argue it’s about religion. But the heavily religious Hills and Northern Beaches, and the Sutherland Shire, still recorded strong yes votes... Why has Ireland, with an 85% Catholic population, and only 10% irreligious population, far below Australia’s figure of 30% irreligious, produced a stronger result for same-sex marriage than Australia?... The conservatives and nationalists have talked about maintaining our culture and values, but the foreign invaders, blamed for the decay of our culture, have been the ones who have most strongly voted to preserve it. But perhaps the left is in an even more uncomfortable position. The haters and the bigots, as it turns out, are the minorities they’re apparently seeking to defend. We’ve heard from the left that people who oppose SSM are unenlightened dinosaurs with no place in today’s society, well who have they called unenlightened dinosaurs? Muslims, Asians, and pretty much every non-white group in Australia who clearly voted no in greater numbers."

It's time to confront this taboo: First cousin marriages in Muslim communities are putting hundreds of children at risk - "leading geneticist Professor Steve Jones, of University College London, warned that ‘inbreeding’ in Islamic communities was threatening the health of generations of children... ‘It is not fair to the children or to the NHS which has to treat them. If you go into a paediatric ward in Bradford or Keighley, you will find more than half the kids are from the Asian community,’ she said... British Pakistanis, half of whom marry a first cousin (a figure that is universally agreed), are 13 times more likely to produce children with genetic disorders than the general population... Many NHS doctors, while admitting privately there is a crisis, refuse to speak out for fear of being branded ‘racist’... I was told by charity workers, doctors and counsellors working with families in Yorkshire, Lancashire and the Midlands that many parents also believe it is an ‘act of God’ or the ‘will of Allah’ that their children are born disabled... ‘I cannot understand why cousin marriages are not forbidden in Islam. The Koran doesn’t forbid it and this encourages people around me to disbelieve what the doctors say."

UK Pakistani views on the adverse health risks associated with consanguineous marriages - "Emerging themes included a limited knowledge, opposition to evidence and need for a more culturally sensitive health services approach. Findings from the focus group and interview discussions indicated that participants had a limited and varied understanding of genetic risk and indicated a lack of discussion within the community regarding genetic risk. They also opposed evidence that may link consanguineous marriages with infant mortality, stillbirth or genetic disorders that led to disability"

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Rowan Williams on the rise of Protestantism - "Because Luther and other reformers of that age felt they couldn't depend on the Pope to push forward reforms in the Church they had find some other leverage. The most obvious one was local rulers so another of the slightly unintended consequences of the Reformation was to push up the status of local and national rulers. In other words to give nationalism a bit of a push"

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, How do we define sexual harassment? - "How do you codify this? How, are you say that there must not be no reference to sex, no sex at all. That you mustn't say to a woman or even to a man - you look lovely today or you look very handsome today which is part of socializing, which is civilized. which makes people feel good. You cannot codify this. As I said it goes back to a question of good manners. Michael Fallon is a thoroughly unpleasant man and he's unpleasant to men as well as women, period...
'Many of the women who are coming out and saying you know get a thicker skin, deal with it are women who are privileged, in positions of privilege to be able to say that. There are lots of young women in Westminster'
'But I was a young woman'
'I'm talking about right now. Who are, who don't feel like that'...
'We are being told what we must feel, that we must feel traumatised by a... rather sad little text message that Mr Hopkins sent, or a rather ridiculous and unfunny remark that Mr Fallon made. For a woman who wants to become Prime Minister'...
'Women's voices are being drowned out'
'They're not being drowned out at all, what about the #metoo fashion show?'...
'Last time I came in here was to talk about the pay gap. I had to first have a whole conversation about whether it exists or not'...
'If you start talking about it being all about manners then you, you belittle the serious stuff'
'No no, you're belittling the serious stuff because you're equating a silly text message or a grope with rape and that belittles rape'
'It's all on the same spectrum'
Grievance politics means only women who feel victimised have a voice, and women who don't are silenced, and we cater to the lowest common denominator. And that women are strong enough to make it in politics but so weak that they get triggered by SMSes and throwaway remarks

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Living in the shadow of North Korea - "Not everyone here opposes Trump. We have talked to the general who was a deputy Chief of Staff in South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff last year. He thinks the good cop bad cop double act between Trump and Rex Tillerson his Secretary of State could work...
'Do you personally think there is going to be a war?'

How the barcode changed retailing and manufacturing - "the barcode was changing the tilt of the playing field in favour of a certain kind of retailer. For a small, family-run convenience store, the barcode scanner was an expensive solution to problems they did not really have. But big supermarkets could spread the cost of the scanners across many more sales. They valued shorter lines at the checkout. They needed to keep track of inventory. With a manual checkout, a shop assistant might charge a customer for a product, then slip the cash into a pocket without registering the sale. With a barcode and scanner system, such behaviour would become conspicuous. And in the 1970s, a time of high inflation in America, barcodes let supermarkets change the price of products by sticking a new price tag on the shelf rather than on each item."

Money via mobile: The M-Pesa revolution - "When 53 police officers in Afghanistan checked their phones in 2009, they felt sure there had been some mistake. They knew they were part of a pilot project to see if public sector salaries could be paid via a new mobile money service called M-Paisa. But had they somehow overlooked the detail that their participation brought a pay rise? Or had someone mistyped the amount to send them? The message said their salary was significantly larger than usual. In fact, the amount was what they should have been getting all along. But previously, they received their salaries in cash, passed down from the ministry via their superior officers. Somewhere along the line, about 30% of their pay had been skimmed off. Indeed, the ministry soon realised that one in 10 police officers whose salaries they had been dutifully paying did not exist... In Kenya, similarly, drivers soon realised that the police officers who pulled them over would not take bribes in M-Pesa: it would be linked to their phone number, and could be used as evidence. Estimates suggest that Kenya's matatus - public transportation minibuses - lose a third of their revenue to theft and extortion."

How economics killed the antibiotic dream - "this is all about incentives. What the world really needs is new antibiotics we put on the shelf and use only in the direst emergencies. But a product that does not get used is not much of a money spinner for drug companies. We need to devise better incentives to encourage more research."
And yet there're libertarians who claim that governments don't need to enforce intellectual property rights - in the libertarian wonderland, most consumers and informed and motivated enough to force companies to do things

How the invention of paper changed the world - "When it comes to writing, though, some say paper's days are numbered, believing the computer will usher in the "paperless office". But this has been predicted since Thomas Edison, in the late 19th century, who thought office memos would be recorded on his wax cylinders instead. The idea really caught on as computers started to enter the workplace in the 1970s and it was repeated in breathless futurologists' reports for the next decades. Meanwhile, paper sales stubbornly continued to boom. Yes, computers made it simple to distribute documents without paper, but printers made it equally easy for recipients to put them on paper anyway."

Rise of the robots: What advances mean for workers - "Some economists reckon robots and AI explain a curious economic trend. Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argue there's been a "great decoupling" between jobs and productivity - how efficiently an economy takes inputs, like people and capital, and turns them into useful stuff. Historically, better productivity meant more jobs and higher wages... It's possible that some of the jobs humans will be left doing will actually be worse. That's because technology seems to be making more progress at thinking than doing: robots' brains are improving faster than their bodies. Martin Ford, author of Rise Of The Robots, points out that robots can land aeroplanes and trade shares on Wall Street, but still can't clean toilets."

Battery bonanza: From frogs' legs to mobiles and electric cars - "Gradually, the cost of renewable energy is coming down. But even cheap renewables pose a problem - they don't generate power all the time. You'll always have a glut of solar power on summer days and none on winter evenings. When the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing, you need coal or gas or nuclear to keep the lights on, so why not run them all the time? A recent study of south-eastern Arizona's grid weighed the costs of power cuts against the costs of CO2 emissions, and concluded that solar should provide just 20% of power. And Arizona is pretty sunny."
So much for base load being a myth

The tiny pill which gave birth to an economic revolution - "Abortion was legalised, laws against sex discrimination were put in place, feminism emerged as a movement, and the drafting of young men to fight in Vietnam forced employers to recruit more women. But a careful statistical study by the Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz strongly suggests that the pill must have played a major role in allowing women to delay marriage and motherhood, and invest in their own careers. Goldin and Katz tracked the availability of the pill to young women in the US, state by state. They show that as each state opened up access to contraception, so the enrolment rate in professional courses soared, and so did women's wages. A few years ago, the economist Amalia Miller used a variety of clever statistical methods to demonstrate that if a woman in her 20s was able to delay motherhood by one year, her lifetime earnings would rise by 10%... In Japan, one of the world's most technologically advanced societies, the pill wasn't approved for use until 1999. Japanese women had to wait 39 years longer than their American counterparts for the same contraceptive. In contrast, when the erection-boosting drug Viagra was approved in the US, Japan was just a few months behind."
Despite what feminists claim (at least in other scenarios like welfare for single mothers), people respond to incentives - even for very personal decisions

Jordan Peterson Is Causing Problems at Another University Now - "For the record: Jordan Peterson is a transphobic YouTube crank with basically nothing interesting to say about free speech or gender expression, and who very obviously has no idea what any part of the phrase “post-modern neo-Marxist” means. He is a bad political and social thinker, and many of his ideas about gender roles are genuinely dangerous. (Tabatha Southey has already written his intellectual obituary by clocking him as “the stupid person’s idea of a smart person,” which is immediately obvious to anyone who listens to his awful honking voice for more than thirty seconds.)
It's quite funny how all the liberals are doing hit jobs on Jordan Peterson that basically amount to "he is dangerous", without providing any evidence. It is telling that comments on this sort of article are overwhelmingly negative (even if other articles published by these outfits have the usual type of comments praising the virtue signalling, showing that it's not dogpiling)
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